In a brief piece for Strategy+Business titled “Business Leaders as Catalysts for Change,” Bob Woods recently interviewed George Oliver, a man with leadership experience as a senior executive at Johnson Controls, Tyco, and GE. Mr. Oliver talked generally about the changing role of the CEO in modern companies, but particularly highlighted the need for executives to embrace innovation as a core part of their leadership philosophy. Innovation and leadership are two of the most important attributions to organizational success, especially in today’s hyper-changing society. With every change comes an opportunity to transform, and innovation is one way to grasp this transformational opportunity. Innovation should be at the forefront of every decision a CEO makes.
As more corporate leaders embrace an innovative and creative approach to dealing with modern day society, the traditional leadership role has expanded drastically. In the past, a CEO could be successful by specializing in certain topics and delegating the remaining responsibilities to others. In contrast, a modern CEO must be multifaceted to be successful; must know and appreciate every sector of the business and how such sectors are affected by today’s rapidly changing society in order to take advantage of opportunities to innovate.
Accordingly, a CEO must continuously engage and communicate with every sector of the business by talking to employees, meeting with customers, and chatting with partners. This engagement will serve the CEO well in making a decision to pivot the business to take advantage of an opportunity because that decision will be rooted in a multi-level understanding of the business.
However, innovation should not defeat a business’ purpose. Thus, a CEO must balance this against the business’ values, heritage and tradition.
In sum, a modern-day CEO must be both a leader and an innovator. Innovation is the result of a leader’s detailed understanding of the business’ composition paired with a heightened awareness of today’s hyper-changing society.